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Inside The Envelope: Immersive Sound For Aerosmith At The Park MGM In Las Vegas

Taking a look at L-Acoustics L-ISA Hyperreal Immersive sound reinforcement as it helps continue the legacy of rock and roll pioneers.

Tracking the history of American rock music all the way back to November of 1970, in Mendon, MA, a recently formed and unknown band named Aerosmith played its first official gig. Fast forward almost 50 years of touring, 32 album releases with more than 150 million sales, and that same band is now headlining a limited engagement in Las Vegas with an impressive reinforcement system.

These thoughts were on my mind when I was recently invited to check out the 2019 Aerosmith: Deuces Are Wild residency, where the MGM Park Theater has been equipped with L-Acoustics L-ISA Hyperreal Immersive sound reinforcement supporting not only the live mix for the band, but also a preshow video journey through the incredible careers of rock ‘n’ roll pioneers.

Show producer Steve Dixon has assembled an all-star cast of production professionals to support the show which brings together representatives from THX and Pixomodo. For the pre-show video production, THX updated its iconic “Deep Note” into which, admittedly, was pretty incredible when reinforced with the L-ISA system. Pixomodo, best known for its video effects like the dragons in Game of Thrones, wove an intricate video timeline of Aerosmith from its early days through now in a spectacular way.

And since the sound is what we’re most interested in, take note that the soundtrack for the pre-show was compiled and remixed by Grammy-winning producer Giles Martin at Abbey Road Studios in London and it absolutely sounds like it.

Aerosmith at full throttle on the Park Theater stage with the main L-Acoustics arrays flown above. (Credit: Katarina Benzova)

With the new residency, Aerosmith joins the ranks of a new generation of pioneers, with Lorde, Childish Gambino, Christine and the Queens having deployed L-ISA on tour. Further artists like alt-J, Bon Iver, Ennio Morricone, and others have dipped their toes into immersive waters for one-off shows with the same immersive approach.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of immersive sound for live concert sound, you’re not alone. My initial thoughts on the topic made the assumption that it was merely large-scale surround sound. Well, it’s not.

L-ISA stands for Immersive Sound Art and it utilizes object-based audio. Scott Sugden, L-Acoustics head of application, touring, describes it this way: “Mixing with L-ISA tools for an L-ISA frontal configuration frees the engineer from the traditional constraints of stereo or LCR (left/center/right),” he explains. “Each console channel becomes a sound object that can be freely positioned in the soundscape, while the engineer can very accurately localize sources and track performers on stage. The properties of each sound object are defined independently from the loudspeaker layout, so the entire mix can be retained across a wide variety of venues and system configurations.”

For the system at the Park Theater, Aerosmith’s front of house engineer John Shipp is mixing the band on a DiGiCo SD7 digital console patched to a Pro Tools rig linked to the L-ISA Controller. This feeds a main system consisting of three hangs of a dozen K2 variable curvature line arrays and four hangs of 13 Kara modular line arrays as primary coverage.

Wrapping around the venue as surrounds and rear fills are 20 X8 coaxial loudspeakers and another 18 of the X12s. Up front sits a pair of Syva colinear system tops and subs serving as front fills. The rest of the full-range components are filled out with ARCS Series Wide and Focus models and plenty more X8s and X12s, with the goal of ensuring that every seat in the house gets a similar experience.

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Peering over the shoulder of FOH engineer John Shipp at the DiGiCo SD7, with the L-ISA Controller interface on the screen at his left. (Credit: Zack Whitford)

Low-end support is delivered from eight flown SB28 subwoofers and four K1SB subs on the ground. The system is driven by a total of 48 amplified controllers including LA4X, LA8 and LA12x. The entire system comprises 290 loudspeakers pulling up to 300,000 watts of audio power.

Live mixing in the immersive realm shows all the potential for updating the concert experience beyond the limitations of stereo. It creates an entirely new atmosphere that’s so far beyond traditional house mixes that it’s hard to describe to someone who hasn’t yet been drawn in. I dare say we’re witnessing a paradigm shift and can’t wait to see where it takes us.

And it’s amazing how far sound reinforcement technology has come since the days when a fledgling band named Aerosmith first hit the road.

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